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"So you're the little lady who started this great big war," Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, referring to her 1852 novel, and the role it had played in the beginning of the War Between the States in 1861. Stowe wrote the novel, which was a vicious attack on the institution of slavery, slaveowners, and their overseers, as a reaction to/protest of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which was passed as part of a package of compromise legislation that admitted California to the United States and specified how territory acquired from war with Mexico would be handled. The horrific story of a kind, elderly slave named Uncle Tom who is ultimately killed by his murderous owner, Simon Legree, galvanized public opinion in the North about the evils of slavery; that is to say, abolitionists felt validated, and many who had been on the fence about the issue joined the abolitionist cause amidst the outrage. Southerners rose to their own defense, explaining that slavery in the South was the same thing, or even better than, the working conditions of employees in factories up north. By the time Stowe penned her work, the days of compromise were coming to a close, and it would be less than a decade before the first shots would be fired at Fort Sumter.
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